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Gang fight raises new questions about safety near Library Square



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A fight on a TRAX platform Wednesday ended with two men in the hospital after they tumbled under an oncoming train.

That fight between rival gang members raises new questions about how safe people feel in the area of Library Square. Some people KSL News talked to are uneasy about the area, a place that is supposed to be a community gathering spot.

Shortly before noon, the serenity and educational endeavors of Library Square were briefly shelved when emergency crews raced to rescue two men.

Witnesses say the men fought, then fell in front of the TRAX train, which dragged them before it stopped. Police call the 20-year-old combatants rival gang members.

Library Square and the blocks around it bustle with an urban vibe. But panhandlers, the homeless and fist-fighting gang members can intimidate people.

"Days it's OK, but most of the time it's pretty dangerous. And there's a lot of people we wouldn't trust, especially with my children; and this is a place for children," said library patron Diane Gregory.

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"I think that's an unfortunate perception," said Andrew Shaw, Salt Lake City Library Assistant Manager of Community Affairs. "The library is a place for everyone to come, and we always keep our doors open to everybody."

Shaw says most patrons are there to explore ideas and information. What happens outside is different than what happens inside. Shaw says it's a small percentage of patrons cause trouble.

"We have full-time security. We have a great relationship with the Salt Lake City Police Department to make sure we take care of that problem behavior right away," Shaw said.

Other regular patrons complain of persistent body odor in the building.

"I don't feel in danger or anything like that, it's just something that's a little unpleasant," said library patron Cassian Choucair.

But the homeless didn't cause the problem on TRAX.

"When you displace the homeless, they're going to go to places which are public places," library patron Sage Boyer said.

The library encourages everyone to speak up if they run into trouble.

"It's very safe, a great place to bring your family down to enjoy story time, or to just come get a cup of coffee and hang out," Shaw said.

Police say violent crime is not on the rise in the area, but marijuana dealing is, and they're attacking that problem.

"About two months ago, we started doing undercover operations down there. In that time, we've made 20 arrests down there in that area," said Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Robin Snyder.

Both of the men hit by the train were taken to the hospital in serious condition but are expected to survive. Police are still trying to find out what happened right before the men fell in front of the train.

When the men are capable, police plan to interview them about the fight.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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Jed Boal

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